Literature Program

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Co-sponsored/co-presented by:
The John R. Oishei Foundation; Artvoice; Buffalo Spree; WBFO 88.7; Righteous Babe Records; Talking Leaves...Books; The Mansion; New York State Council on The Arts; National Endowment for The Arts; Erie County; and Hallwalls.

Orhan Pamuk


Presented at:
Asbury Hall at Babeville

With this rare appearance by (at this writing) the most recent Nobel Laureate in Literature—Turkish novelist Orhan PamukJust Buffalo Literary Center—in partnership with Hallwalls and the International Institute, and with a major grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation—inaugurates Babel, a three-year series of readings in Downtown Buffalo's splendid Asbury Hall by a dozen of today's leading figures of world literature.

Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in a large family similar to those he describes in his novels Cevdet Bey and His Sons and The Black Book, in the wealthy westernized district of Nisantasi. As he writes in his autobiographical book Istanbul (first published in English translation by Knopf in 2005), from his childhood until the age of 22 he devoted himself largely to painting and dreamed of becoming an artist. After graduating from the secular American Robert College in Istanbul, he studied architecture at Istanbul Technical University for three years, but abandoned the course when he gave up his ambition to become an architect and artist. He went on to graduate in journalism from Istanbul University, but never worked as a journalist. At the age of 23, Pamuk decided to become a novelist, and giving up everything else retreated into his flat and began to write.

His first novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons was published seven years later, in 1982. The novel is the story of three generations of a wealthy Istanbul family living in Nisantasi. The novel was awarded both the Orhan Kemal and Milliyet literary prizes. The following year Pamuk published his novel The Silent House, which in French translation won the 1991 Prix de la découverte européene. The White Castle (1985) about the frictions and friendship between a Venetian slave and an Ottoman scholar was published in English and many other languages from 1990 onwards, bringing Pamuk his first international fame. The same year, Pamuk went to America, where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University from 1985 to 1988.

It was in New York that he wrote most of his novel The Black Book, in which the streets, past, chemistry and texture of Istanbul are described through the story of a lawyer seeking his missing wife. This novel was published in Turkey in 1990, and in French translation won the Prix France Culture. The Black Book enlarged Pamuk's fame both in Turkey and internationally as an author at once popular and experimental, and able to write about past and present with the same intensity. In 1991 Pamuk's daughter Rüya was born. That year saw the production of a film Hidden Face, whose script, by Pamuk, was based on a one-page story in The Black Book.

Pamuk's novel The New Life, about young university students influenced by a mysterious book, was published in Turkey in 1994 and itself became one of the most widely read and influential books in Turkish literary history. My Name Is Red—about Ottoman and Persian artists and their ways of seeing and portraying the non-western world, told through a love story and family storyÑwas published in 1998. This novel won the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, the Italian Grinzane Cavour (2002), and the International IMPAC Dublin literary award (2003).

From the mid-1990s Pamuk took a publicly critical stance towards the Turkish state in articles about human rights and freedom of thought, although he took little interest in politics. Snow, which he describes as "my first and last political novel," was published in 2002. In this book, set in the small border city of Kars in northeastern Turkey, he experimented with a new type of "political novel," telling the story of violence and tension between political Islamists, soldiers, secularists, and Kurdish and Turkish nationalists. In 1999 a selection of his articles on literature and culture written for newspapers and magazines in Turkey and abroad, together with a selection of writings from his private notebooks, was published under the title Other Colors.

Pamuk's most recent book, Istanbul: Memories & The City (Vintage paperback, 2006) is a poetical work that is hard to classify, combining the author's early memoirs up to the age of 22, and an essay about the city of Istanbul, illustrated with photographs from his own album, and pictures by western painters and Turkish photographers.

Apart from three years in New York, Orhan Pamuk has spent all his life in the same streets and district of Istanbul, living in the building where he was raised. Pamuk has been writing novels for 30 years and never done any other job except writing. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages. In October 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

*The single event ticket price for Orhan Pamuk and each of the other three 2007-2008 Babel readings is $25. Discounted early-bird series subscriptions for members at the price of $60 have sold out, but series subscriptions are still available for $75 for four readings, and discounted series subscriptions are available at a group rate for book clubs. Call Just Buffalo at 832-5400 to purchase series subscriptions at the book club rate.

Besides major grant support from The John R. Oishei Foundation, the organizers of Babel thank Artvoice, Buffalo Spree, & WBFO 88.7 for their media sponsorship; Righteous Babe Records for the use of Asbury Hall at Babeville; Talking Leaves…Books; The Mansion; and New York State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and Erie County, for their support of Just Buffalo's and Hallwalls' programs.

Some publications related to this event:
November and December, 2007 - 2007